Before relocating to a new area, it’s important to do your research, especially if you’ve never had first-hand experience living in that city. Whether it’s the location of your new job, you have family there or you’ve heard something nice about the city, you’ll still want to look into things such as the neighborhood’s crime rates, schools, restaurants and grocery stores.
How can you experience a new place before moving? Ten members from Forbes Real Estate Council weigh in on the best ways to gain a better understanding of the area before you sign a contract for a home or apartment.
1. Browse Social Media
Leverage social media outlets. By following area organizations, coffee shops, protected communities and more, future renters and buyers can get a sense of what is happening in the area from those that live there every day. This tactic creates a more organic approach to the customer experience versus targeted ads. – Debra Wyatte, Cecilian Partners
2. Talk With Friends And Family
Soliciting feedback from friends and family can be very helpful. Although you are ultimately the decision maker, hearing their perspectives toward certain neighborhoods or features of a home can help inform you as to what to expect once you’re living in it. Compared to random neighbors or strangers online, people within your circle have a better idea of how conducive a potential new home might be to your lifestyle. – Ron Costa, The Eighty Two Group
3. Drive Your Possible Everyday Commute
Take the commute! Drive to and from your place(s) of work at the same times that you normally would. You might be two miles closer, but traffic could be a nightmare. It’s great to shop at the local grocery store as well. Take a look around as those folks are your neighbors. Be sure to drive the commute at least once because taking the property as the commute gives you first-hand experience about what you are committing to for many more years. – Kevin Hawkins, WAV Group, Inc.
4. Ask Locals Questions
The best way for potential buyers to get a true feel for a new area before purchasing is to visit the neighborhood on various days and at various times. Shop at the local markets, grab coffee at neighborhood coffee shops, pick a lunch spot close to the property you’re considering and talk to the shop owners and patrons. Ask the locals what the neighborhood is like and what they love about the community. – Tara Hotchkis, Compass
5. Read Local Newspapers And Stats
I’ve often found local newspapers—whether digital ones or paper—to be great sources of insight. Additionally, you can look at the local nonprofit sector vibrancy. Another great barometer is the local school system in terms of student population trends. In many ways, long-term vibrancy starts with the local schools. – Clark Twiddy, Twiddy & Company
6. Live A Day-In-The-Life Of Your Future Self
To understand a location you must try and live there without really living there. Visit and meet with people doing local things. Talk to people in gyms, markets and other places. You cannot tell online what a place will be like. Hang out, eat and go to the stores. You may still not get the vibe, but you will definitely have a better idea. The ultimate arbiter of your impressions of the area is to ask yourself after you leave for 24 hours is, “What are you feeling?” – Mike Shapiro, Mike S Shapiro
7. Spend Time In Your Neighborhood
After you see a property, return without your agent. Return at different times of day and at night. Also, try talking to neighbors. If you can, ask them what you should know about the neighborhood and even the block. Most people will be more than happy to share their opinions, and their insights can help you make a better decision. – Kevin Markarian, Marker Real Estate
8. Speak With Property Managers
If you’re renting, speak to property managers who are leasing the homes you’d like to move into. Ask them about the area and what’s nearby. There are also helpful comparison sites such as Teleport that show you cost of living comparisons between cities. – Chuck Hattemer, Onerent
9. Talk With Your Future Neighbors
It’s always a great idea to talk to neighbors and the current or prior occupants, if possible. Neighbors are often eager to share pluses and minuses about the community and may have knowledge of specific issues with the house you want to rent or buy. Current owners and occupants will often share their experiences and issues with the house or neighborhood if you ask probing questions. – Nick Ron, House Buyers of America
10. Get A Short-Term Rental
Getting a short-term rental nearby can help you get a sense of the area. Stay in a short-term rental property for a month or two in your preferred area to explore and experience its spots day and night. Oftentimes, an area transforms after certain hours, especially financial districts, and this approach allows you to experience the diverse energies in the neighborhood. – Rodolfo Delgado, Replay Listings